In a controversial ruling Venezuela’s Supreme Court endorsed the non enforcement of Criminal Code sanctions against those occupying private landholdings and plots of land.
“The ruling is an attack on private property which augments insecurity, generates alarm, discourages investment and could generate conflicts” said a member from the Venezuelan farmers’ association.
“The ruling is going to incentivise landholdings’ grabbing particularly next year, which is an electoral year” said Manuel Cipriano Heredia president of the Venezuelan Federation of Livestock breeders. He added the Supreme Court stance is “a blank cheque for squatters to act with no fear or impediments”
In the ruling the Venezuelan Supreme Court states that “above private rights are those rights for the common good destined to the production of food or other products for human consumption which help satisfy the agro-food needs of whom work or produce in that environment”.
Heredia warned that even when it generates a very dangerous precedent for the rural sector, the ruling could be implemented to anybody who owns a property, not only a house or a plot of land, but to any means of production or transport.
The cattle breeder recalled that the Venezuelan government so far has expropriated over 3.6 million hectares of good farming land but only 50.000 remain in production.
Agrarian Law expert Romand Duque Corredor said that the ruling sets a serious precedent because instead of being based “on constitutional criteria it responds to ideological parameters”.
Duque Corredor cautioned that the same way that Criminal Law can be disaffected to privilege “agro-food security”, tomorrow the grabbing of houses and even squatting homes could be decriminalized in support of the right to abode”.
The ruling can lead to the law of the jungle, ‘eye for eye’ “because nobody is going to allow his property be taken away”.
Venezuelan opposition said that the ruling is another clear evidence of the political militancy of the Supreme Court which “interprets constitutional and legal statutes with an evident ideological and political inclination which further hinders the loss of credibility, impartiality and independence by the Judiciary branch in Venezuela”.
This week the administration of President Hugo Chavez celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Agrarian Department which has ‘recovered’ for the people of Venezuela over 3.672 million hectares distributed in 2.340 farms in 23 different states.
The bill which sponsored the legal instrument has been geared to “combat large estates, absentee landlords, rescue uncultivated land with the purpose of increasing farm production and promoting the inclusion of peasants in the production machinery”.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands said that so far 175.129 agrarian instruments have enabled to regulate ownership of expropriated land and for camp workers to settle and benefit directly.
This week another farm with 43.000 hectares and 14.000 head of cattle was expropriated “giving opportunity to 46 families to start an agrarian Socialist commune” said the ministry in a release.
President Chavez has promised to speed up the recovery of land in the whole country to resettle farm workers and peasants.
However according to farmers associations, of the 3.6 million hectares taken over a minimum percentage remains in production. Venezuela has an estimated 30 million hectares of farming land but food is one of the main import items of the country.